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Progressives Trying To Stop Fiscal Scold CNN Documentary

CNN bought the rights to the Pete Peterson-funded “IOUSA” last year, and they ran a three-hour special about it, uninterrupted by any contrary view about the national debt or the country’s fiscal future. Digby wrote at the time:

I say this is a shock doctrine documentary because it is nearly impossible for me to believe that it is a coincidence that the deficit hawks have put together this slick “non-partisan” documentary and well financed campaign to cut spending at the moment of what many people believe is America’s greatest economic peril since the 1930s. They are, quite obviously, attempting to use the crisis to dismantle the social safety net and avoid doing the real work of reforming the financial system. Shock Doctrine 101.

And when I say slick and non-partisan, it really is. The show also featured a panel with none other than the smarmy village saint Bill Bradley and the Clinton era deficit maven Alice Rivlin. Of course, it also included hedge fund king and deficit fetishist Pete Peterson and his little dog ex-GAO chief David Walker. (Walker seems to be halfway aware that he might not be on the right track, but he’s committed to this project.) It couldn’t be more in keeping with the post-partisan, non-ideological zeitgeist. Except it’s ideological to the core.

Either the ratings worked or this fits in with CNN’s effort at High Broderism or they all want to go home for the weekend and air a rerun, but the network plans to run IOUSA again. And this time, the Campaign for America’s Future is trying to stop them.

Keep in mind what IOUSA is. It’s basically a snuff film about the national debt, meant to scare Americans into unpalatable solutions like cutting Social Security or Medicare benefits. This has been the MO of Pete Peterson for decades, and this film represents a branching out into other forms of entertainment to generate eyeballs to this blatantly ideological project. They have their own think tanks, their own newspaper (the Fiscal Times), their own media spokesmen, and now their own movie. It’s all very sophisticated. I know some people who work for Peterson in a completely non-ideological capacity, and they were completely taken in by it. The lack of balance is intentional, as anyone who disputes that the nation is collapsing and that we must act immediately to take away meager senior benefits is marginalized.

Here’s the letter CAF is urging people to send to CNN:

If CNN wants to continue to be seen as “the most trusted name in news,” you will not give Pete Peterson and his acolytes free airtime this Saturday and Sunday to blast their “I.O.U.S.A.” propaganda unchallenged.

Many prominent economists such as Paul Krugman, James Galbraith and Dean Baker have sharp disagreements with Pete Peterson about Social Security, Medicare and public investment.

CNN should be the place to have the debate, not the place where one opinion is deemed to be absolute truth.

I strongly urge you yank the IOUSA programs, produced by deficit hawk Peterson – or to give equal time to defenders of Social Security, Medicare and public investment. If you don’t you will destroy your reputation and lose this viewer. Thank you.

I don’t know that a weekend documentary on a network that few people even watch anymore will tip the scales toward right-wing deficit reduction. But it certainly legitimizes it. And that’s unacceptable.

Good for CAF for bringing attention to this.

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David Dayen

David Dayen